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Financial malware more than twice as prevalent as ransomware

Symantec Security Response

Financial malware more than twice as prevalent as ransomware

Three Trojans dominated the financial threat landscape in 2016 and attackers increased their focus on corporate finance departments

With all the attention ransomware is getting it’s easy to overlook other threats, such as those that target the financial sector and its customers. However, these types of threats are a serious and costly problem for both businesses and consumers. Financial threats tend to get less news coverage than ransomware, but they are far more prevalent. With over 1.2 million annual detections, the financial threat space is 2.5 times bigger than that of ransomware. For example, the financial Trojan Ramnit’s (W32.Ramnit) total number of detections for 2016 approximately equalled all ransomware detections combined.

Although we have seen a 36 percent decrease in global detection numbers for financial malware in 2016, this is mainly attributed to earlier blocking in the attack chain and a switch to more focused attacks. But don’t be mistaken, financial threats are still profitable and continue to be popular among cyber criminals. From financial Trojans that attack online banking, to attacks against ATMs, point of sale (POS) machines, and fraudulent interbank transactions, there are many different attack vectors utilised by criminals.

Triple trouble

Three malware families ruled the financial threat space in 2016; Ramnit, Bebloh (Trojan.Bebloh), and Zeus (Trojan.Zbot), who together were responsible for 86 percent of all global detection counts.

In the second half of 2016 Trojan.Bebloh and Trojan.Snifula both began focusing on 20 banks in Japan. Both threats were spread through spam emails with double extension attachments masquerading as scanned documents — earlier variants used web exploit toolkits. It is unclear why the two threats both started targeting banks in Japan at the same time; however, they seem to share a common resource for dynamic web injects, allowing attackers to manipulate web traffic on the fly.

Special treatment

The attackers are interested in learning more about their victims. The Dridex downloader (W32.Cridex), checks installed software lists for financial software packages. If anything is found, like an offline payment tool, the computer is accessed manually through a remote access tool such as a hidden virtual network computing (VNC) server. The attacker will then study the compromised computer and learn what software is used and work out ways to carry out fraudulent transactions.


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